Scott McConnell, writing in The American Conservative, explains to readers that Emmanuel Macron was “elected by voters either at peace with liberal globalism or fearful that Marine Le Pen would be too disruptive. He now knows that the former group, at least, are far from a majority in France.” With the weakness of his mandate, what can Macron do after the gilet jaunes protests end, that is, if they end? McConnell writes (abridged):
Week nine and the gilet jaunes remain at the center of French political life. The populist protest has endured the scorn of the French media, unfair and scabrous attacks by French President Emmanuel Macron, and efforts by far-left rioters to use its demonstrations as a cover for attacks on police and property.
It has endured the arrests of some of its leaders, and its own failure to set forth a clear agenda or choose representatives to effectively make its case. It did not recede after Macron made some initial concessions (most importantly on the gasoline tax), nor after national attention was diverted by a terror attack prior to Christmas.
Macron, unpopular before the protests began, has done what would be expected from a moderately skilled politician: attempt to divide and diffuse the movement with a combination of concessions and harsh attacks.
For the French president, the question of whether he will to finish out his term—“can Macron still govern?”—remains alive.
Macron was elected by voters either at peace with liberal globalism or fearful that Marine Le Pen would be too disruptive. He now knows that the former group, at least, are far from a majority in France. National polls remind him that the gilets jaunes‘ contempt for French elites of all stripes is widely shared.
Macron has doubled down on his initial instinct—to make immigration part of the great national debate instigated by the gilet jaunes rebellion. His own views are not obvious.
During his campaign, he said all the things a pro-business multicultural centrist would be expected to say; subsequently, on a trip to Africa, he poured cold water on requests for more visas for Africans to enter France, and remarked about African birth rates in a way that liberals derided as racist. Now, to take the steam out of the gilets jaunes, he’s presented as an option an immigration restrictionist plank proposed by the center-right party in the last election cycle. For this, naturally, he came under renewed fire from members of pro-immigration lobby.
There are tens of millions of people who want desperately for government to work for them, not just for the rich and the poor. When he came into office, Macron had no intention of instigating a national debate about the French state and its goals, and certainly not about immigration. And his current stance may be no more than a smokescreen—that’s what Marine Le Pen, the left-wing socialist parties, and most of the gilet jaunes think anyway.
But another possibility is that Macron has been forced into a corner by the gilet jaunes, and that his only way out is to put multiculturalism and immigration on the table for discussion. It may really be that his own views on these subjects are not set in stone, that his greatest motivation at this point is to succeed as president, and as a result something good might emerge.
Read more here.